Mammal, closely related to giraffes.
Lives in the Rainforest in central Africa.
Found in the African Rainforest Exhibit at the zoo.
Vegetarian, mostly eats leaves.
Hunted by leopards.
Threatened by habitat loss and poaching.
Status: Endangered.Mallon, D., Kümpel, N., Quinn, A., Shurter, S., Lukas, J., Hart, J. & Mapilanga, J. 2013. Okapia johnstoni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2.
2005. Okapi and Giraffe: Giraffidae, Grzimek’s Student Animal Life Resource. Ed. Catherine Judge Allen, Arthur V. Evans, Melissa C. McDade, Neil Schlager, Leslie A. Mertz, Madeline S. Harris,, et al. Vol. 17: Mammals: Volume 4. Detroit: UXL, 2005. p954-962. Gale, Cengage Learning.
2004. Okapis and Giraffes (Giraffidae), Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia. Ed. Michael Hutchins, Arthur V. Evans, Jerome A. Jackson, Devra G. Kleiman, James B. Murphy, Dennis A. Thoney, et al. Vol. 15: Mammals IV. 2nd ed. Detroit. p399-409. Gale, Cengage Learning.
Bodmer, R.E. & Rabb, G.B. 1992. Okapia johnstoni. Mammalian Species 422:1-8. http://www.science.smith.edu/msi/
There aren’t very many of us in the wild. We’re not sure but we think there are about 10,000. Our stripes make us hard to find in the forest (that’s why we have them!) so it’s hard to tell how many of us there are in the wild.
Did you know all okapis in the wild live in the one area—the Ituri forest in Africa. That makes us vulnerable to humans messing up our forest.
Western science didn’t know okapis even existed until 1901. Of course, the local Africans knew about us!
We may seem to be very quiet to you. That’s because you can’t hear what we are saying! We can communicate with sounds most humans can’t hear. We also use smells to communicate. By smelling, we can tell if another okapi has been in the area or even if a female is ready to mate. We have scent glands in our feet that leave scent marks for other okapis to find as we walk through the forest.
- All About Okapis
Okapis look like they should be related to zebras, but they are not! They are related to giraffes. They are large, weighing between 500 and 800 pounds as adults. They are dark reddish-purple with a light face and white stripes on their legs and backside. They have long legs, a long neck, large ears, and a tufted tail. Males have short horns covered by skin, while females just have bumps where the horns should be.
The stripes on okapis’ legs and rump help them blend into the jungle by matching the pattern of light filtered through the trees and ferns. The exact pattern of stripes is unique to each animal and can be used to tell them apart.
Okapis are wary and secretive. They are mostly found alone or in small family groups, usually mothers and calves.Scientific Classification
Domain: Eukarya (organisms with complex cells)
Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
Phylum: Chordata (animals with spinal chords)
Subphylum: Vertebrata (animals with backbones)
Class: Mammalia (mammals)
Order: Artiodactyla (animals with even toed-hoofs)
Family: Giraffidae (giraffes & okapis)
Species: O. johnstoniLife Events
Mating & Dating
Males wander long distances to find females. When a male finds a female who is interested in mating, he courts her by leaving scent marks with his urine. He will also circle the female and make low moaning sounds. The couple then stands head to tail and stretches their necks upward. Sometimes the male will make small kicking motions with his front legs. If the female is interested, she’ll lower her head and stand still.
Okapi mothers have one baby at a time, called a “calf”. The mothers are pregnant for 15 months and the newborn calves weigh 30 to 80 lbs. Calves can stand and move about at birth but quickly select a hiding place (nest). They remain on or very near this nest for almost two months. Their mothers leave them there during the day as they go off to feed. The mothers return after several hours to nurse and tend to the calves. Young okapis spend up to two years traveling with or sharing their mother’s territory. It is easy to tell that an okapi is young. Young animals have a bushy mane that runs along their back. They also have fringe along the edges of their ears.
I bet you didn’t know
- Healthy calves don’t poop until they are at least 6 weeks old! That way they won’t foul their own nest or attract predators with the smell of their poop.
- Okapi calves grow very quickly. A calf usually doubles its weight within 30 days of birth.
Okapis share their habitat with many other species including the African forest elephant, African golden cat, bongo, blue duiker, eastern lowland gorilla, Congo peafowl, and leopard. Many of these species, including the okapi, are found nowhere else in the world.At the Zoo
Where you can find them at the zoo: The African Rainforest Exhibit.
The Zoo has two okapis, a male and a female. The female is named Kisa and the male is Kendo. Kisa is three years old and Kendo is five. They came to the Zoo in 2005. You can tell them apart because like all males, Kendo has horns, while Kisa, like all female okapis, does not.Conservation
Okapi are very secretive and hard to find, so it is difficult to know how many exist in the wild. We think there are currently between 10,000 and 35,000 left. Local people and researchers from around the world are working together to conserve these rare animals.
Zoos around the country participate in a program to treat all of their okapis as a single population. This program is called a Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP make sure that the zoo population of okapis stays healthy and continues to grow.
The major threats to okapis are humans displaced by civil war, poaching, and habitat loss.
Many different organizations are working together to help conserve okapis in the wild. The White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Florida works with the Okapi Conservation Project in the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help. They support agro-forestry, conservation education, sustainable livelihoods, and community assistance programs. They also support the Institute in Congo for the Conservation of Nature, to manage and support the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. You can find out more about them at www.okapiconservation.org and www.epulu-story.org.
What Our Zoo Does
Our Zoo supports okapi conservation by contributing money to the Okapi Conservation Project.
We also participate in the Okapi Species Survival Plan.What Okapi Likes to Eat
Okapis are, eating leaves from more than 200 different species of tree and shrub. They strip leaves from the trees with their 15-inch long, tongue.Animals Okapi Doesn't Like
Leopards are okapi’s main.People Okapi Likes
The Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) is run by the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Florida and supported by zoos around the world. They support conservation and education programs in the Congo.
The Institute in Congo for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) manages and supports the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The ICCN has wardens, rangers, and guards to protect okapis from poachers and illegal logging.
The OCP and the ICCN both work to educate local people about okapis and support sustainable agriculture in the area so people won’t need to cut down the forests.People Okapi Doesn't Like
Poachers and people who cut down trees in the forest. Illegal logging and occupation of protected areas damage okapi habitat and drive okapi deeper into the forest. Illegal hunting for okapi meat and skins is also a serious problem.
Okapis live in the rainforest of central Africa, primarily in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Most okapi live in the Ituri Forest of Central Africa. Their main habitat was designated as a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1992.
Okapis can also be found in many zoos in America, Europe, and Japan.
Okapis are usually found alone or with their calves.
Isn’t she adorable?
Giraffes are my cousins.
Forest elephants live in the Ituri forest with me.
Blue Duikers are small antelopes that live in the forest with me.
Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Gorillas are vegetarians, just like okapis. They like the same kinds of leaves I do.
Congo peafowl are small birds that live on the ground. Males have fancy tails like peacocks.
People Who Help
Leopards eat okapis. Scary!
Sometimes people cut down the forests for wood or places to live. That leaves us with nowhere to live!
Some people kill okapis for their meat or their beautiful hides. That makes me sad.